Home Destinations 21 Best Things to do in Rotterdam: Cubes Houses, Windmills and Naughty Sculptures

21 Best Things to do in Rotterdam: Cubes Houses, Windmills and Naughty Sculptures

by Michele
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Best things to do in Rotterdam 2023
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Bright cube houses, the world’s largest painting, and 19 UNESCO listed windmills, here are just a few of the best things to do in Rotterdam to plan the perfect city escape.

I’m generally not a fan of modern cities which is probably why visiting Dubai or Las Vegas has never really appealed to me.

So, when the opportunity came up to attend a blogging conference in Rotterdam I wasn’t all that excited to see the city itself as much as I was excited to speak some Dutch and interact with the locals. If you didn’t know, the Dutch, in my opinion, are some of the loveliest people I’ve met in my travels. They’re wonderfully friendly, full of smiles, and super helpful.

Even though I wasn’t too fussed about seeing Rotterdam, I nonetheless wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt because the last time I was in the Netherlands, I went to The Hague and loved it! So, I planned some extra time ahead of the conference to explore Rotterdam, and I’m so glad I did!

What I saw and experienced was a city that has prospered after being almost entirely flattened during WWII. After suffering terrible devastation to its historic centre, the Rotterdamers took this as an opportunity to rebuild their city and propel them into a bright and thriving future. What they built is nothing short of amazing. Evidence of their ingenuity and brilliance can be seen in their incredible architecture, infrastructure, and beautiful artworks both in and outside of their museums.

There’s something to be said for a city that takes pride in everything it does from its transportation to designing the first covered market in the Netherlands with a multi-use space.

If Rotterdam wasn’t on your to-see list, I urge you to reconsider.

This comprehensive guide details the very best Rotterdam has to offer to ensure you have the perfect city escape. Here are the 20 things to do in Rotterdam you probably didn’t know existed.

History of Rotterdam

Rotterdam was first founded in the 9th century when people first settled near the River Rotte. In the 12th-century, however, the area suffered a tremendous flood which devastated the town and forced its inhabitants to flee.

In 1270, they came back to reclaim the land which needed some serious drainage. To do this, they built a 400-metre long wooden dam to hold back the River Rotte. Houses were then built on and around the dam for safety. No bonus points for guessing how the name Rotterdam came to be. Today, an outline of where the River Rotter passed is marked with grey bricks on the pavement in front of the Markthal.

As the town grew and prospered, Count Willem IV of Holland granted city rights to Rotterdam on 7 July 1340. At this time, the population was only a few thousand.

Nowadays, Rotterdam is a major logistic and economic centre and home to Europe’s largest port.

Now that you know the lay of the land, here are the 20 things to do in Rotterdam!

Included in this guide to 21 best things to do in Rotterdam

  1. Cube Houses (Kijk-Kubus)
  2. White House (Witte Huis)
  3. Market Hall (Markthal)
  4. De Rotterdam
  5. Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug)
  6. Luchtsingel Bridge
  7. Stadhuis
  8. Rotterdam Central Station (Centraal Station)
  9. St. Lawrence Church (Sint-Laurenskerk)
  10. Delfshaven District
  11. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
  12. Euromast
  13. The Park (Het Park)
  14. Santa Claus Statue by Paul McCarthy
  15. St. Paul’s Church (Pauluskerk)
  16. Arboretum Trompenburg Botanical Gardens
  17. Windmills at Kinderdijk
  18. Hotel New York
  19. Fenix Food Factory
  20. Floating Forest
  21. Street Art on Witte de Withstraat

Map of the Best Things to do in Rotterdam

Want to know where you’ll be going? Take a look at the detailed map below.

Tip: For a larger view of the map, click on the icon in the top right corner.

Watch my vlog on the best things to do in Rotterdam

1. Cube Houses (Kijk-Kubus)

best things to do in rotterdam - cube houses starWhat better way to start this guide to Rotterdam than with its most iconic attraction, the Cube Houses. If there is one word that sums up Rotterdam, its ‘architecture’ and the Cube Houses are one of the city’s finest examples.
Designed by the Dutch architect Piet Blom in the 1970s, this block of brightly coloured yellow houses was his answer to building housing above a pedestrian bridge.

The design of the Cube Houses was based on the concept of “living as an urban roof” meaning to have an area of high-density housing that leaves adequate space on the ground level.

The houses rest upon a hexagon-shaped pylon and are tilted at a 45-degree angle giving excellent views of the surrounding area.

best things to do in rotterdam - cube houses courtyard best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - cube house and pencil building

In Dutch, this complex is called Blaakse Bos, referring to the vision of the architect Piet Blom where each house represents a tree and the entire complex, a forest. Piet Blom wanted to create a kind of village in the big city. The complex comprises of shops, small businesses, a school, and playground for children all within a traffic-free walking area with living quarters hovering above.

One of the cubes houses is open to visitors and contains displays on the design and history of the buildings. For only 3 euros, it’s worth a taking a peek inside.

Address: Overblaak 70, 3011 MH Rotterdam
Opening times: Open 10am-6pm daily

2. White House (Witte Huis)

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - witte huisWitte House (‘White House’ in Dutch) is one of the few buildings to survive the Blitz of 1940 in central Rotterdam. This striking Art Nouveau style building with ornate turrets, decorative roof and white façade act as a proud reminder of the city’s heritage and history.

Built in 1898 and once considered Europe’s tallest building, Witte House is a National Heritage Site. It even has a rooftop with panoramic views over Rotterdam.

Address: Geldersekade 1 3011 WB Rotterdam

3. Market Hall (Markthal)

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - inside markthal esculatorThe innovation continues are Markthal (Market Hall). Rotterdam’s newest architectural gem was the first covered market in the Netherlands. Not only does it host food vendors, shops, restaurants, and parking, but there are over 200 residential apartments nested within its walls.

And if that wasn’t enough, covering the massive 11,000 square metre ceiling is the world’s largest painting  Appropriately dubbed the ‘Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam’, the mural consists of vegetables, fish, and other food items that create a sort of kaleidoscope of food.

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - markthal outside

You’ll find everything from traditional Dutch favourites, like Stroopwafels, to Balkan foods, Spanish tapas, and exotic Indonesian dishes. Make sure you come here on an empty stomach!

Address: Dominee Jan Scharpstraat 298, 3011 GZ Rotterdam
Opening times: Monday – Thursday and Saturday 10 am to 8 pm, Friday 10 am to 9 pm, Sunday 12 pm to 6 pm

4. De Rotterdam

best things to do in rotterdam - view from hotel room at thon hotel daytimePerhaps the coolest skyscraper in Rotterdam is De Rotterdam. Made up of three connected towers, the building appears to be stacked and shifted upon a base plinth.

The building’s design represents a vertical city with each of the three interconnected mixed-use towers being used as housing offices, apartments, a hotel, conference facilities, shops, restaurants, and cafes.

De Rotterdam is environmentally friendly with an energy monitoring system that ensures maximum efficiency throughout the building.

The best time of day to see De Rotterdam is just before sunset when the sun directly hits its facade illuminating it in pink and purple hues.

Address: Wilhelminakade 139, 3072 AP Rotterdam

5. Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug)

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - erasmus bridge at sunset with heartsRight next to De Rotterdam is the Erasmus Bridge or Erasmusbrug in Dutch. Creating an elegant link between northern and southern Rotterdam locals has lovingly nicknamed this steel-cable suspension bridge ‘the swan’ due to its large upright mast that resembles the neck of a swan.

Stretching 802 metres across the river, Erasmusbrug is the second largest bridge in the Netherlands.

The bridge was named after Erasmus, the Dutch Renaissance humanist, a Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian who was born in Rotterdam.

Address: 3011 BN Rotterdam
Opening times: 24 hours

6. Luchtsingel Bridge

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - Luchtsingel BridgeSay hello to the “world’s first crowdfunded public infrastructure project”. Luchtsingel Bridge is a 400-metre-long pedestrian bridge that was funded by over 8,000 people who signed up to support the campaign.

For every €25 (£17) donated, supporters had their names immortalised onto one of the wooden boards that line the edges of the bridge. To complete the project, architects were granted further funding from the city council.

The bright yellow wooden bridge, (I think the Dutch have a thing for yellow) is raised above ground by an entire storey which creates an uninterrupted pedestrian pathway.

The aim of Luchtsingel Bridge was to connect the centre to Rotterdam North and revitalise this relatively forgotten area that was predominantly left vacant and neglected.

Address: Luchtsingel, 3011 AJ Rotterdam
Opening times: 24 hours

Going to the Netherlands? Get my free Dutch travel phrase guide

7. Stadhuis

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - stadhuis courtyardWhile I would never visit a town hall in Australia, they only really appeal to me in Europe because they are usually in fantastically beautiful buildings and the Stadhuis (Dutch for Town Hall) in Rotterdam is no exception.

Standing alongside Witte Huis in that it miraculously escaped destruction in World War II, this stunning Dutch Renaissance style building was constructed between 1914 and 1920.

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - stadhuis ceilingWhile you can’t visit its richly decorated interior on your own, you can book a tour through the tourist office. Otherwise, you’re free to visit its landscaped courtyard garden which I highly recommend.

Address: Coolsingel 40, 3011 AD Rotterdam
Opening times: Monday – Friday 8:30 am – 5 pm

8. Rotterdam Central Station (Centraal Station)

best things to do in rotterdam - centraal stationIt’s not every day that I would recommend seeing a train station, but this one is special. I mean, just look at it!

Before Rotterdam Centraal was built, the city only had four small train stations. In 1957 a new central station was built, but with the influx of new commuters, a new and even larger station was needed. In March 2013 the new Rotterdam Central Station opened which now facilitates 325,000 commuters every day.

On the station’s roof are 3,000 solar panels which supply electricity to the station powering its lights, elevators, and escalators. If the solar panels are in excess of energy, it is given to the city’s power grid.

And to store all those bicycles,  there is a huge bike parking space which accommodates up to 5,000 bikes.

What I love most about this station is its use of the originally lettering out the front. Well, when say ‘original’ I mean they used the same typeface to recreate the letters of ‘Centraal Station’. Surprisingly, after the letters were taken down and kept in storage during the construction of the new station, some went missing. Such an odd thing to steal, but nonetheless, new letters were created based on the original styling.

Here’s a fun fact, Rotterdam Centraal Station is the only station in the Netherlands without the name of the city out the front. This is because locals believe that, if you’re in Rotterdam, you know it!

See I told you the Rotterdammers were a proud lot.

9. St. Lawrence Church (Sint-Laurenskerk)

Not only did Sint-Laurenskerk (Church of St. Lawrence) survive the Blitz in 1940 it was also built on the banks of the original settlement by the River Rotte where Rotterdam was founded which makes it the birthplace of Rotterdam.

Constructed in 1449, Church of Saint Laurence is the only remaining piece of medieval architecture that survives in Rotterdam. Even though it survived, it did not go undamaged. After the bombing, the heavily damaged church and the reconstruction works that followed became a symbol of city’s perseverance and strength.

The interior of the church is quite beautiful with many decorated arches, high vaulted ceilings and a variety of stone reliefs and rich religious decoration.

You can visit a permanent exhibition entitled, Een monument vol verhalen (‘A monument filled with stories’), or climb the tower on a guided tour on Wednesdays and Saturdays from April through October.

Address: Grotekerkplein 27, 3011 GC Rotterdam

10. Delfshaven District

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - street in delfshaven districtUnlike much of Rotterdam which was devastated in WWII, the old district of Delfshaven was left mostly unscathed. This gorgeously quaint part of town is one of the most popular spots in this city.

Delfshaven is also the birthplace of Admiral Piet Hein who played a vital role during the country’s long war against Spain in the 16th-century.

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021

Americans will find the Old Church (Oude Kerk) in Delfshaven particularly interesting as it this is where the last service was held in 1620 before Pilgrims set sail for the New World to found Plymouth, Massachusetts. This special event is commemorated with a memorial and bronze tablet.

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - postbox in delfshaven district

11. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen buildingFor an incredible collection of paintings and sculptures, you can’t miss Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. This is one of the Netherlands’ (and Europe’s) most important art centers.

Works from 14th to 16th centuries are exhibited here with paintings by Hubert, Jan van Eyck, Hieronymus Bosch, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder. From the 17th century, you can see pieces by Rembrandt and 26 of Rubens paintings. Taking us into the 19th century are Monet, Gauguin, and Van Gogh before being whisked into the 20th century with Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall.

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Dali painting

The major drawcard of me was the Little Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on display when I was there as it was being prepared to be shown in an exhibition. The painting depicts the construction of the Tower of Babel, which, according to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, was built by a unified, monolingual humanity as a mark of their achievement and to prevent them from scattering.

In addition to the epic art collection, it’s worth taking a stroll around the gardens surrounding the building.

Address: Museumpark 18, 3015 CX Rotterdam
Opening times: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, Closed Mondays

12. Euromast

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - euromast panoramic view of rotterdamFor the best views of Rotterdam, you can’t beat a visit to Euromast. This tower was constructed in 1960 with the sole purpose of providing panoramic views of the Rotterdam cityscape.

If that wasn’t enough, the Euroscoop, a rotating glass elevator, takes you a further 185 meters into the air! On clear days you can see as far as 30 km into the distance. At the 92-meter mark, the Euromast has two restaurants where you can dine with an excellent view.

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - dinner at euromast

If the view wasn’t enough, thrill seekers can take a zip-line or abseil down the tower. For a more relaxing experience, you can book one of two stunning suites located at the 100-meter point.

With a late closing time, this makes it one of the best places to enjoy the sunset.

Address: Parkhaven 20, 3016 GM Rotterdam
Opening times: Daily 10 am-10 pm

13. The Park (Het Park)

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - euromast from het parkA park without a name, simply called, the Park, is a green oasis just outside the busy city centre. Located along the river Maas and next to the Euromast,  the eastern part of the park dates back to 1853 which was designed by architect Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul in English landscape style. In 1886 the park was expanded, when the western part, called the Hill, was added to the park. The Park also has a mini-golf course, benches and a BBQ area.

best things to do in rotterdam - het park

Address: Westzeedijk/ GR, Parkkade, 3016 CG Rotterdam
Opening times: 24 hours

14. Santa Claus Statue by Paul McCarthy

best things to do in rotterdam - santa claus statueOk, this one is added in purely for the giggle factor. This Santa Claus statue by American sculptor Paul McCarthy, is the result of the City of Rotterdam having 200K euros to spend on a statue for the city.

When officials saw the final statue, they hated it. As you can see, the tree looks very similar to a sex toy. Before long, it was nicknamed “The Buttplug Gnome”. It caused so much controversy and interest that various shopping districts around the city wanted the statue to be placed near their shops in the hopes that visitors would enter their shops after seeing the statue.

Address: Eendrachtsplein, 3012 LA Rotterdam, Netherlands

15. St. Paul’s Church (Pauluskerk)

best things to do in rotterdam - st pauls church pauluskerkRemember the story of Rotterdam Centraal Station? Well, when the architect, William Alsop, proposed a new design for the station and was turned down at the last minute, they tried to soften the blow by asking him to instead rebuild both the Pauluskerk (St. Paul’s Church) and CalypSO building.

The original Pauluskerk was built in the late 1950s and received a lot of attention thanks to Reverend Visser, who developed the church into a refuge for the outcasts of Dutch society: asylum seekers, homeless people and drug addicts.

Being within such close proximity to Rotterdam Central Station controversy surrounding its mission brought it slowly but steadily onto a collision course with the renewal and redevelopment of the station area.

Eventually, this led to the demolition of the original Pauluskerk in 2007. Enter British architect William Alsop who designed the current church as part of the CalypSO project.

Address: Mauritsweg 20, 3012 JR Rotterdam
Opening times: Daily 9 am – 9 pm

16. Arboretum Trompenburg Botanical Gardens

best things to do in rotterdam - Arboretum TrompenburgArboretum Trompenburg is Rotterdam’s botanical garden covering seven hectares. The gardens are beautifully landscaped with a large collection of trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and tubers.

The Arboretum Trompenburg also holds national plant collections of conifers, Quercus, Fagus, Rhododendron, Ligustrum, Rodgersia and Hosta.

Even if you’re not a plant person, the grounds provide a lovely setting to walk around and relax in. Perhaps pop into De Uithoek tea room for a bite to eat or drink.

Address: Honingerdijk 86, 3062 NX Rotterdam
Opening times: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, Monday 12pm-5pm

17. Windmills at Kinderdijk

best things to do in rotterdam - Windmill at KinderdijkA trip to the Netherlands wouldn’t be complete without seeing windmills. Thankfully, a short boat ride will take you to the largest surviving concentration of windmills in the country, a history that’s celebrated during special Mill Days, when their sails are once again set in motion.

Just 23 kilometers east of Rotterdam located in the beautiful little village of Kinderdijk these 19 perfectly preserved 18th-century windmills are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The name Kinderdijk (the “children’s dyke”) comes from a famous legend that describes a baby’s cradle being stranded here during the St. Elizabeth’s Day flood of 1421.

best things to do in rotterdam - Windmill outhouse at Kinderdijk best things to do in rotterdam - Windmills at Kinderdijk

Built between 1722 and 1761, the windmills have been restored to their original condition and you can even go inside a couple of them.

You can explore area either on foot, bicycle or by taking a canal boat tour.

Address: Nederwaard 1, 2961 AS Kinderdijk
Opening times: Daily 9am-5: 30 pm

18. Hotel New York

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - hotel new york

Here’s a bit of history for ya. Hotel New York was the former head office of the Holland America Line, which was the first shipping and passenger ship connecting the Netherlands and the United States. It was also the first connection between the two continents.
Built in 1917, the building is located on the banks of the River Maas which means it has a wonderful view of the river and towards central Rotterdam. On a warm day, locals flock here to sunbathe on the grass and dine in the outdoor restaurant.

19. Fenix Food Factory

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - fenix food factoryOpposite Hotel New York is Fenix Food Factory, the perfect dockside hangout where locals socialise, eat, and drink.

Almost everything on offer inside this warehouse is locally made and sold by separate vendors. Be sure to check out Booij Kaasmakers for cheese, grab a cider at Cider Cider, snap up a few baked goods from Jordy’s Bakery, sip on a Stielman Koffiebranders coffee, pick locally grown fruit and veg at Rechtstreex, then relax with a craft beer from Kaapse Brouwers.

Address: Veerlaan 19D, 3072 AN Rotterdam,
Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-11pm, Sunday 12am-11pm, Closed Mondays

20. Floating Forest

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - floating forestA 7-minute walk from Hotel New York will take you to the Floating Forest. This art installation consists of twenty live trees recycled from the city’s ‘tree bank’ which have been placed in sea buoys with fresh water so they float in the harbour.

Since Rotterdam has seen a lot of new constructions, many trees are cut down as a consequence. The artist, Jorge Bakker, hopes the public art will encourage people to consider the effect the city dweller has on nature.

Address: Posthumalaan 13, 3072 AG Rotterdam
Opening times: 24 hours

21. Street Art on Witte de Withstraat

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - Witte de Withstraat street art facesRotterdam has some of the coolest street art and while there are pieces scattered all over the city, there are a whole bunch of wall murals along Witte de Withstraat, which basically translates to ‘Whitey the white street’. This street is the place to be for some of the best nightlife, cafe’s and restaurants. There are few of rather funky hostels here including one where your room is a pod! So it’s no wonder that these talented artists chose this street for their colourful pieces.

best things to do in rotterdam - Witte de Withstraat street art

Address: Various points along Witte de Withstraat


Rotterdam really does have a lot going for itself. From seeing all of it marvellous architecture, enjoying delicious food from the Markthal (I went three times!) to being out in nature for a walk around the Windmills. Even though it’s a city, Rotterdam is incredibly green. There are trees, gardens and parks all over the city. Another plus is that it’s not overrun with tourists. In fact, the only time I saw tourists was at Kinderdijk! With no queues and hoards to deal with, this is yet another reason to visit Rotterdam. Get in quick before the secret gets out!

Watch the vlog

Where to Stay in Rotterdam

Best Accommodation in Rotterdam for Sightseeing

In Rotterdam, most of the main attractions and architectural landmarks are located in the city centre so it makes sense to base yourself here if you’re visiting for the first time.

Hotels are all over the city but with such excellent transport links and being a very walkable city, no matter where you stay you’ll be well-connected.

Staying at Thon Hotel Rotterdam

best things to do in rotterdam - view from hotel room at thon hotel at night

The awesome view from my hotel room

During my five days in Rotterdam, I stayed at  Thon Hotel Rotterdam. My room had one of the best views I’ve ever had in my travels. My window looked directly out to the beautiful Erasmus Bridge and the Maas River. Each night I would leave the curtains open just so I could see it at first light. Thon Hotel Rotterdam is in a very central location, which made it the perfect base. Just outside is a tram stop and the ferry boat you that takes you to Kinderdijk to see the windmills. Check the latest rates and availability here

best things to do in rotterdam in 2021 - accomodation thon hotel rotterdam room

Getting to Rotterdam

I flew with British Airways which offers direct flights to Rotterdam / The Hague Airport from City Airport. From the airport, it’s just a quick 30-minute local bus and then a tram ride to the hotel. Alternatively, book your transfer here. Easy!

Planning a trip and need travel insurance? Get a free quote from World Nomads here.

Going to the Netherlands? Get my free Dutch travel phrase guide

Got more time? Take a tour or day trip from Rotterdam

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21 Best Things to Do in Rotterdam That You Probably Didn't Know About

Over to you!

Do you have a question about visiting Rotterdam? Have you been to Rotterdam before? What else would you recommend? Ask me below!
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